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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Thought experiment time!

Let’s say you are hungry.

You are lunch-level hungry.

You are not starving (although you have been known to exclaim, “I’m starving!” in the company of similarly situated folks who have never in their life experienced real poverty).

Let’s also say that three identical, average-sized Styrofoam(R) brand containers have been placed before you.  Each container contains one pound of food fit for human consumption.

The containers are labeled (accurately) as follows:

  1. chicken with brown rice
  2. spicy noodles with vegetables
  3. sushi with seaweed salad

You may select one container.

Which do you choose?

I’ll give you a moment to think about it.

Your container-selection thought process probably went something like this:

  1. Note contents of Container 1 (“C1”)
  2. Note contents of C2, compare to C1
  3. Select more desirable container (C1 vs. C2)
  4. Note contents of C3, compare to more desirable (C1 vs. C2)
  5. Select most desirable container overall (C3 vs. [C1 vs. C2])
  6. “I choose Container [1-3].  That’s my final answer.”

Here’s what your thought process did not look like:

  1. Each container has 1 pound of food
  2. Therefore, no container is superior to the others
  3. “I choose any of the containers.”

I don’t think it’s controversial to point out that we prefer some foods over others.  We are willing to pay a certain price for a particular food item because of what the food is, not simply because it is “food” in the generic sense.

Should “Chinese food” cost the same regardless of whether you’re buying shrimp or noodles or rice or beef or spring rolls?

(Hint: It shouldn’t!)

In other words, since there is no (rational) part of our brain that believes our grocery shopping could be accomplished utilizing this all-food-is-equal theory (“I would like 13 pounds of food at ten dollars per pound, please.”),  why does it make sense to choose our lunch this way?

(Hint: It doesn’t!)

The upshot of this realization is that I am completely paralyzed when I encounter any food-by-the-pound buffet-style “restaurant.”

A pound of tuna may weigh the same as a pound of bok choy, but that is where the similarities end.

Tying the price of all goods in your shop to a characteristic unrelated to the essence of the goods (weight as opposed to taste/texture/nutrition) seems contrary to what we know about ourselves (we have varying desires for different goods) and our economy (our level of desire should dictate what we are willing to pay for a particular good).

once wrote of capri pants, “I’m not going to support any article of clothing that is trying to introduce an entirely new class of weather.”  Similarly, I am not going to support any eating establishment that by definition forces me to construct my meal in an entirely foreign way: based not on its inherent deliciousness vs. pricepoint, but rather on some weird hybrid desire-to-weight ratio.

Now before I get too carried away, I should point out that I do understand that it is possible to get “value” at one of these by-the-pound spots.  I know that if you eschew heavy/cheap foods like noodles, cooked rice, and mashed potatoes in favor of airy/costly items, you can “win” the buffet game and victoriously chomp down upon your efficiently-crafted, financially sound lunch.

But you won’t necessarily be eating what you want.

And really, is that any way to live?

(Hint: Nope!)

Quite simply, I refuse to trade the simple “what I want” calculation for the far more complex and less reasonable “what I want given the taste-to-weight ratio.”

“How tasty do I think that chicken is going to be and how much does it cost?”

Suddenly becomes…

“How tasty do I think that chicken is going to be?  How much does that chicken weigh?  Do I know how much ‘a pound’ feels like?  Does it weigh so much that its deliciousness is overcome by the potential cost?  Would I be better served obtaining a less scrumptious item that is lighter per morsel?  Does the chicken seem to be secretly infused with some sort of secret sauce or heft-adding liquid and/or cheese?  Should I be more upset that the guy who just sneezed all over my plate just infected me with Dengue fever or because his snot will actually make my meal cost more?”

That’s no way to live.

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